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French Government Looks to Mass Spyware to Control Copyright

September 10, 2010

A while ago I wrote about the technical difficulties of implementing any reasonable solution to stopping people from using p2p to download copyrighted material (post 1 and 2) – I notice that the French government is adopting methods very similar to that of China in an attempt to control p2p use;

French Internet users could soon be asked to install spyware on their PCs that tracks their surfing habits and analyzes the applications installed on their machines in order to prevent file sharing piracy. Plans for this type of surveillance surfaced this week when a paper authored by the French Hadopi agency, which was put in place to police the French Internet and prevent copyright infringement as part of the country’s three strikes legislation, leaked online.

You may remember early 2009 a policy emerged in China that would require all new PC to come pre-installed with government spyware with the appropriate name of ‘Green Dam’ – under the guise of protecting the youth from dubious morality.  However, Professor Jonathan Zittrain, of Harvard’s Berkman Center said:

“Once you’ve got government-mandated software installed on each machine, the software has the keys to the kingdom… While the justification may be pitched as protecting children and mostly concerning pornography, once the architecture is set up it can be used for broader purposes, such as the filtering of political ideas.”

Indeed.  What is interesting is that it appears that there is no easy technical solution to the laws that politicians have passed – and I can’t see how their will be, unless you can impose some very draconian system, but even then there will be ways round it.  I suggest this is doomed to expensive failure – consider the $84 million the Australian government spent developing a filter system, also to protect youth from dodgy material – only to have a 16 year old hack it in 30 minutes.

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